Author's posts

Four at Four

Four at Four is an afternoon briefing of four (yes only four) important or interesting stories in the news. Please look for it Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern.

  1. The New York Times reports that George W. “Bush flew with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice directly to this sprawling air base in Anbar Province, the Sunni stronghold that has seen significant security improvements in recent months. There he was joined in the 110-degree heat by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staffs, who had flown separately… ¶ The high-level visit was conducted with extraordinary security precautions. American officials said the measures, which included withholding disclosure of Mr. Gates’s arrival after Mr. Bush was on the ground, were necessary because of the top officials from Iraq and from the United States who were present. Although Mr. Gates arrived on a C-17 transport plane, Mr. Bush traveled on Air Force One, which could be seen sitting on the air base’s baking tarmac.” Bush stopped by Iraq on his way to Australia for APEC, so I guess that explains why Laura skipped the trip. She didn’t want to see the Good News from Iraq™, first hand.

  2. Hurricane Felix has weakened slightly according to the Miami Herald. “Forecasters called the modest weakening an expected short-term fluctuation and said Felix was likely to regain its top-scale Category 5 strength before its core makes landfall Tuesday morning, likely near the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. ¶ Warnings were issued to residents of Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize and Guatemala.”

  3. The Washington Post says in northern France, some champagne producers’ grapes were ready for harvest in August, earlier than in any year on record. “Scientists and growers have been stunned by the dramatic evolutions in the northernmost regions of Alsace and Champagne, long considered less susceptible to global warming… ¶ In a chain reaction of nature, climate change is also sending new insects and diseases north… ¶ Scientists and vintners say wine grapes are the best agricultural measure of climate change because of their extraordinary sensitivity to weather and the meticulous data that have been kept concerning the long-lived vines.”

  4. According to the Times of India, China has banned the reincarnation of living Buddhas without state permission. “In an order by the state administration of religious affairs, which comes into effect from September 1, China has said Buddhas cannot be reincarnated outside China. Instead, they would have to take permission from the state, which would oversee the selection of the ‘soul-boy’ (or the reincarnated Buddha).” The present Dalai Lama has said “that if Tibet was not free when he died, he would be reincarnated in a free country elsewhere. The Chinese government wants to pre-empt that.”

So, what else is happening?

Four at Four

Four at Four is an afternoon briefing of four (yes only four) important or interesting stories in the news. Please look for it Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern.

  1. According to the Washington Post, George W. Bush apologized to Roberta Stewart, “the widow of a Wiccan soldier, after she was excluded from a Nevada meeting this week that the president held with the families of soldiers killed in combat.” Stewart lost her husband, Patrick, in Afghanistan in 2005. Bush called Stewart for a five minute conversation and “expressed regret over her exclusion.”

  2. There is a hopeful article about green energy in the Washington Post, Beyond Wind and Solar, a New Generation of Clean Energy. Some of the alternatives investigated include buoys”to harness ocean waves off the coast of Oregon to produce electricity” and geothermal power plants that “pump naturally heated water from underground, run it through turbines to generate electricity and re-inject it into the earth”. The article notes that, “this push for lesser-known renewables — which also includes geothermal, solar thermal and tidal energy — may someday help ease the country’s transition to a society less reliant on carbon-based fuels. But many of these technologies are in their infancy, and it remains to be seen whether they can move to the marketplace and come close to meeting the country’s total energy needs.” Let’s hope the engineers and scientists succeed and let’s push the politicians to make it possible.

  3. The Sydney Morning Herald gives an update on the Voyager I and II space probes in Thirty years tracking faint whispers from space. “When NASA’s Voyager probes set sail they were the most sophisticated spacecraft ever built. But that was 30 years ago.” Now, the Tidbinbilla space tracking station, outside Canberra, Australia has to maintain “heritage equipment to talk to them… because the ageing probes can only chat at a sluggish 32 bits a second, far too slow for modern computers.” Some of the engineers maintaining the equipment are younger than the hardware.

  4. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Jason Ur, an archaeologist at Harvard University has a new theory about how ancient cities came to be. “Excavations at a 6,000-year-old archeological mound in northeastern Syria called Tell Brak are providing an alternative explanation for how the first cities may have grown. ¶ Archeologists have thought cities generally began in a single small area and grew outward — but evidence indicates that the urban area at Tell Brak was a ring of small villages that grew inward to become a city.”

So, what else is happening?

Four at Four

Four at Four is an afternoon briefing of four (yes only four) important or interesting stories in the news. Please look for it Monday through Friday somewhere between 4 p.m. Eastern to 4 p.m. Pacific.

  1. There is still a bright spot in the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Russia. According to The New York Times, The U.S. and Russia are cooperating in destroying arms.

    In a little more than 2 minutes, the missile component burned itself out, the latest piece of Soviet-era nuclear hardware to be destroyed under an American taxpayer-funded effort known as Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction.

    The brainchild of Senator Richard G. Lugar and Sam Nunn, then also a senator, the effort, which had its 15th anniversary this week, has grown into one of the principal areas of enduring collaboration between Russia and the United States.

    Programs under its umbrella have helped Russia and other former Soviet states account for, secure and destroy nuclear, chemical and biological materials and the equipment related to their delivery as weapons, though some elements have suffered delays and bureaucratic resistance, and a renewed climate of secrecy in Russia has made negotiations and access difficult at some of the weapons or material storage sites.

    Still, in all, nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads have been deactivated, and silos, mobile launchers, submarines and strategic bombers that were once integral to their deployment and potential use have been destroyed. In addition, the effort has helped to safeguard highly enriched uranium from research reactors and nuclear power plants, and blend it down to a state of low enrichment — still useful for generating electricity, but not as material for a nuclear device.

  2. Today is a bad day for whales. Reuters is reporting, that a U.S. appeals court ends ban on Navy sonar tests. The lawsuit was brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council because they claim the Navy’s “sonar, which shoots bursts of sound, is so loud it kills whales.” In the opinion, the split three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said whales are come second to America’s “defense”:

    “The public does indeed have a very considerable interest in preserving our natural environment and especially relatively scarce whales,” Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote. “But it also has an interest in national defense. We are currently engaged in war, in two countries… The safety of the whales must be weighed, and so must the safety of our warriors. And of our country.”

    The navies of landlocked Afghanistan and civil-war embroiled Iraq must be an enormous threat to America.

  3. The Federal Reserver doesn’t look like it’s going to cover the risky bets of the mortgage speculators. The Washington Post reports that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the Fed won’t let markets disrupt U.S. economy.

    But Bernanke also made clear that the Fed has no desire to bail out investors who made foolish bets. “It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve — nor would it be appropriate — to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions,” Bernanke said, an apparent rebuke of critics on Wall Street who would like the Fed to cut its federal funds rate, a decision that would likely ease some of the locked up markets for home mortgage and other debt.

  4. The Independent has a great story about Anthony Battersby and Rachel Feilden, a couple of Brits, who have revived a historic watermill in Tellisford, England to generate electricity. “Since going live in January, Battersby and Feilden have sent 140,000 kilowatt (kW) hours to the National Grid. That’s enough annually to power 60 homes and, thanks to a range of green energy premiums, the couple are in line to earn £25,000 a year from selling their electricity, not to mention saving 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”

    The article suggests that “if small hydroelectric projects on all Britain’s streams and rivers could be tapped it would be possible to produce 10,000 gigawatt hours of electricity – or 3 per cent of our total energy needs.” There are likely to be old mills in the United States, especially in New England, that could be similarly restored and converted for green hydropower.

So, what else is happening?

Four at Four

Four at Four is an afternoon briefing of four, yes only four, news items that are important. Please look for it Monday-Friday at around 4 p.m. Eastern.

  1. The Los Angeles Times has a good story today on Jon Soltz, Iraq war veteran and founder of The portrait of Soltz is Soldier answers a new call to battle:

    But in a little more than a year since he launched VoteVets. org, Soltz has helped transform the war debate in Washington by channeling the raw anger and frustration of many Iraq vets into a political campaign both sophisticated and visceral. Soltz, 30, and his band of mostly twenty- and thirtysomething veterans have shaken the GOP’s claim to be the pro-military party. They accuse Republicans of recklessly sending troops to war without the right equipment and failing to care for thousands of wounded and traumatized vets…

    “Jon Soltz seems to be exactly what progressives need,” said Paul Begala, an influential Democratic strategist who worked on Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr.’s successful 2006 campaign against Santorum. “He has a pair of fists, and he knows how to use them.”

    …Soltz said the organization would remain on the offense throughout the 2008 campaign. “Everything else VoteVets has done has been warm-up,” he said. “We’re going to play in the big leagues.

  2. According to The Hill, the AFL-CIO is “unlikely to throw its support behind a candidate during the primary season. Under current rules, a candidate would need the support of two-thirds of the union’s membership, making it difficult to see how an endorsement could be offered anytime soon”.

  3. Alberto Gonzales will soon be out of a job, but his words will live on in infamy. According to the Washington Post, the soon to be Gonzales-free Justice Department is Investigating Gonzales’s Testimony:

    The Justice Department is investigating whether departing Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales gave false or misleading testimony to Congress on a broad range of issues, including the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program and the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year, the lead investigator said today.

    The disclosure by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine shows that internal investigations that began with the prosecutor firings have widened substantially to include a focus on Gonzales’s actions and statements.

    Senate Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy (D-VT) is looking forward to the findings.

  4. The Sahara isn’t the only desert that is slowly creeping and expanding. In China, the Badain Jaran desert is expanding. From The Independent, Great Wall could be lost to sands of the desert: “Sandstorms in northern China are reducing large sections of the Great Wall to rubble. Archaeologists say whole chunks of one of the seven wonders of the world could be gone in 20 years”. The CS Monitor had a story about China’s desertification problem recently too. China loses about 950 sq miles to desertification each year.

So, what else is happening?

Roof Gardens, Wine, and Urban Agriculture

In the past few days, two news stories have captured my imagination. The first story came from the Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s skyline turning green. The second story was in the Washington Post, Iraqi Past Ferments in An Unlikely N.Y. Winery. Both stories deal with urban agriculture – the potential for it and one man’s reality of it. From the SMH story:

Rice paddies and orchards on city rooftops could become reality with a plan to green Sydney’s roofs… “It’d mean an enormous increase in parkland in the city,” [architect Tone Wheeler] said.

The rooftop gardens could also have commercial potential. “There could be organically grown food grown on the roof and sold in the cafe below,” Mr Wheeler said…

Garden designer Jamie Durie’s company, Patio, has worked on several Sydney rooftop gardens and is working on projects in Chicago and New York, where the concept is more advanced.

Wherever the sun falls there’s an opportunity to grow a garden,” he said.

The idea of rooftop gardens isn’t a new one, but I think it has untapped potential for growing food in the urban environment. I love the idea of inviting you to a cozy corner restaurant in a favorite part of the city. We’d sit down at a table and, perhaps, order a fresh salad made from tossed greens grown on the restaurant’s own roof garden. Throw in a few slices of cucumber and wedges of tomatoes from the garden and a dash of a light vinaigrette dressing and we’re dining in urban agricultural style.

But, there’s more… our young server suggests that we order a bottle of wine made by the neighborhood winery. She can see by our dubiously raised eyebrows that we were unaware that there was a vineyard nearby. After a couple, gentle but leading questions, she begins to tell us about Latif Jiji, a 79-year-old “engineering professor originally from Iraq, [who] has made his townhouse into a vertical winery…”

Load more